Study: Ignoring visitors may hurt church attendance

Those shorts have got "Newbie" written all over them...
Those shorts have got “Newbie” written all over them…
SILVER SPRING, Md. — “Turns out ignoring new people isn’t a great church growth strategy,” said Kent Latherby, lead statistician for a group of sociologists that have been commissioned by the North American Division for a year-long investigation into dwindling church attendance across the nation. ┬áLatherby said that according to the group’s findings, a curt “Happy Sabbath” by someone in the church lobby before you are shoved a bulletin has not helped boost attendance a lot either.

All kidding aside, click to learn more about Union College

He said that somewhat counter-intuitively, these time-honored church hospitality traditions have actually reduced church attendance. He added that even in cases where church regulars selflessly gave visitors entire church pews to themselves, these same new people frequently would fail to notice the generosity of the gesture and have been known to move on to a new church or simply skip church by the very next Sabbath.

Adventists have reacted in different ways to the findings of Latherby and his team. “I would obsess more over visitors but I come to church to meet my friends and there’s only so much time available,” said Kay Sanders of Reno, Nev., explaining her lack of contact with new people. “If newbies need us to especially greet them they can always put their name in the guest book. That way they’ll get a special mention in the meet n’ greet.”

San Diego-based Rick Holster had a different take: “It’s not that we don’t want new people, we just want the right new people. I like to make sure they fit in first and then I get to know them.”

Tell the World: The Inspiring Story of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

Holster said that although he is a staunch creationist, he sees the early struggles of new members or visitors as a “survival of the fittest” contest. “It can be a little rough at first but it’s a good way to weed out light-weights and short-timers,” said Holster.

Digesting the many reactions to his team’s research, Latherby said that he is not yet sure what to make of the data. “We are sending the findings back to committee to work out some recommendations for action,” he said.


3 Comments

  1. Ray Kraft

    Too bad . . . but this isn’t even satire.

    I’ve been to SDA churchs (where I wasn’t a regular) where not a single person spoke to me or even made eye contact. They were too busy meetin’ and greetin’ their friends.

    One was Loma Linda University, where the only people who seemed to see me were a couple I’d gone to PUC with.

    To be fair, I’ve been to non-SDA churches where the same thing happened.

  2. I’m glad to say that I have not experienced this kind of treatment as a visitor at church. If I had been treated that way, I probably would not have gone back. It’s good to feel welcome. There is one congregation that I visit once in a while, and the elderly gentleman in the lobby always greets me so warmly and with such a genuine smile, that I look forward to visiting there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *